Tuesday, February 09, 2016

What are the basic skills of the basics?

The four chess basics are:
  • Attack
  • Restrain
  • Block
  • Protect
For improvement, two elements play a role, skill and condensed knowledge.
Skill is something that can become better by just exercise it automatic and unconscious, “like a madman”/Troyis-style. Skill is about manipulating the pieces and the squares in the mind.

Thinking is a slow conscious process which can yield knowledge. To make knowledge accessible in a practical way, it has to be “ready knowledge”. For chess, the most practical way to express knowledge is a diagram, complete with arrows and colored squares, if needed. I will use the term geometrical pattern, although that might not be quite correct technically. By learning these geometrical patterns by heart, they will become available for direct use.

When your progress is stalling at a certain exercise, you can go in two ways. Either you try to acquire more condensed knowledge, or you look for more basic skills. The stalling itself means that your skill for that exercise has reached it's current maximum.

The road of acquiring more condensed knowledge is subject to the law of diminishing returns. It becomes more difficult over time to find geometrical patterns that have a high enough frequency of occurrence to be of any practical use. When you have done some serious work on tactical exercises, you are probably well versed in the most common patterns. In a strategical underdeveloped game like Troyis, you can gain high results by inventing new patterns. But the path of chess tactics is already well trodden.

So it is skill time!
What exercises do we have?

FAC is essentially about the chain Attacker – Attacking square – Target.
Further we have FAAP – Find All Attacked pieces. This is even more elemental than FAC, since the attacking square is left out. I will give it a try.

There are no specific exercises for restraint. M1-h is the first exercise with a high “restrain-dose”, but since it is a compound exercise, you are never able to train your restrain-skill at high speed, since the other underdeveloped skills, which you need for the other parts of the M1-h-exercise, will slow you down.

In order to train restrain, a subset of all M1-h can be used, with solely white pieces and a black king. This rules out the subtasks “blocking the attack” and “protecting the attacking square”, since black pieces are needed for that.

When doing tactical exercises I found that lack of restrain-vision was my main bottleneck when trying to visualize-II future positions.

For blocking the line of attack by interposing a piece doesn't exist a specific training, as far as I know. Blocking is a subtask of M1-h, so M1-h can be used to train it, with the same limitations as restraint.

There is a specific exercise FADP – Find All Defended Pieces, that might represent a basic skill. For the sake of elimination, it is good to master all these basic exercises to the max. M1-h has Find All Defended Squares as a subtask. In the form of “Is this attacking square I intend to move to protected?”

Tomasz' initial speed at exercises like M1-e, M1-h and FAC is far greater than mine. That suggests he masters a subskill that is used in all these exercises. Maybe is willing to share what that is and how he trained it? ;)

For the time being I will have a look if the subtask Find All Attacked Pieces is of any influence on Find All Checks.


  1. "For improvement, two elements play a role, skill and condensed knowledge."

    Performance is the result of KSA ( = Knowledge, Skill and Ability http://www.cdc.gov/hrmo/ksahowto.htm )
    Abilitys in chess would be, to be able to checkmate in less than 50 moves with Bishop and Knight and things like this. Not a skill and not just knowledge.

    " M1-h is the first exercise with a high “restrain-dose”, but since it is a compound exercise, you are never able to train your restrain-skill at high speed,"

    I dont think that high speed is necessary during the training. A good thinking process with lots of attention to this detail could do too. Just estimatingly slower

    "That suggests he masters a subskill that is used in all these exercises."

    Not "a" subskill.. several ( dozends )
    If you improve "natural" you have to improve several subskills at the same time and its virtually impossible to improve just one of them.

    This analysis of board vision and it subskills was at my blog.. maybe it helps:


    1. @Aox, btw, I compared the avg checks per minute at FAC with the values of my own measurements, and they seem about 50% off. How can that be?

    2. To get more stable values i did experiment with different "averages". Dont remember which i did take was it was it the reciprocal of the average reciproke..? The idea is that a single "long break" has no big effect, you may leave and drink a coffee the value will not change a lot, if you do it only once in a while. In other words long delays have less weight than short delays, or, the script puts more attention to the peak speed, its an average of spee and not of time.
      Say you have 10 mates in 10 sec and the next comes for simplicity after 11 days
      The average time for finding a mate would be 11 / 11 days = something like 0
      If you calculate the average speed: (10 * 1 +0)/11 thats still almost 11.

      The other averages did jump around to much in my opinion

    3. Aha, that explains the anomalies I saw. Guess I want to become twice as fast by changing the figures.

  2. @Tempo

    "Tomasz' initial speed at exercises like M1-e, M1-h and FAC is far greater than mine. That suggests he masters a subskill that is used in all these exercises. Maybe is willing to share what that is and how he trained it? ;)"

    I am going to proove that improving at M1-h at 100% ratio is possible in my case. It will be extremally hard, but there is no other way to convince Aox about the scenario "mate in 1 IS a task that can be improved with specific training".

    Mastering the subtasks is much harder in my case as I do not use any specific training - it is just Saltmines style ;). If my tests will show the evidence that M1 is improvable - I would have to reveal the secret: solve 120.000 puzzles M1-e, a few thousand of attackers and defenders at Chessgym, few thousand of FAC and few thousand of M1-h. It anyone is "MDLM-crazy guy - you can replicate it" LOL.

    1. What's your score at chessgym with the attackers and the defenders?

    2. An important difference between your and mine preparation seems to be the attackers and defenders at chess gym. I will try to fix that and see what the effect is on the other exercises.

    3. @Tempo
      Tomasz was twice as fast at easy tactics than me anyway, he is expert level at easy tactics so he is twice as fast in m1 anyway ( now even more ;)
      My Gym values
      Attackers 44.45/min #5,766 16h 46m 09s
      Defenders 52.32/min# #1,444 5h 45m 36s

    4. So I guess I must not expect too much from that either. Maybe we should find out if Tomasz eats a lot of fish, or something.

    5. I suspect that sucess in chess is the amount of work you do in your younger ages. But it could be talent ( = genes ) too? Or maybe Tomasz did pay his whole live more attention to such details ~= thinking method?
      To be better = to be faster
      Some are better -> some are faster.

      The interesting thing is that Tomasz was able to improve some in M1-e.
      That tells me that M1 is ( almost ) easy enough for him.
      We both have to make m1 easy.. or except that m1 ( and so the whole tactics ) is not improvable for us.
      No fish.

      To do a training with attackers and defenders is no bad idea but i dont think this is specific enough to help a lot at m1.

      The FAES = Find all escape squares should help much more

    6. @Tempo "Maybe we should find out if Tomasz eats a lot of fish, or something."

      Maybe we should estimate if he is really crazy, because he has played 120K chess games (blitzes and bullets), solved 120-140K chess puzzles (mate in 1) and spend 12K hours at practicing tactics and playing (fast) chess games. If we add these number it looks like Tomasz devoted 12K hours and has seen (repeated and been exposed) to 250K chess puzzles/positions. That may explain why he obtained a very high level of skill at #1 puzzles.


      It depends what you mean "younger ages". If we assume Tomasz has started playing chess at about 20 years old (!) - it is not young age at all! Howeber the amount of work (done by Tomasz) related to mate, checkmate and very simple tactics... is HUGE (look above).

      Tomasz talent is NON-existence - he is a very average intelectual man (chess amateur). And we can agree that Tomasz paid (devoted) his whole live (at least last 18 year of his life) to solving (simple) puzzles all over again and again. He has been able to solve Ivashenko's workbook (Manual of chess combinations 1A+1B - now as two volumes; formerly one volume of 1320 puzzles) so many times as he memorized all of the book! There are 1320 puzzles and they are different level of difficulty (complexity). Tomasz has been able to solve 1200 puzzles (the rest are the endgame and some of the puzzles require to show even up to 12-14 moves) in a bit more than 22 minutes time! 1320 (sec) : 1200 (puzzles) = 1,1 sec per puzzle!


      Tomasz tried hard and repeated the puzzles to such a degree that one day he started solving (and repeating) the puzzles from 8 a.m. and finished midnight! (yes, 16 hours straight after that he fell down to bed as he was simply exhausted; he even did not remember when/how fast he fell asleep). Tomasz solved about 20.000 chess puzzles BEFORE digital era - like nowadays access to the puzzles via Internet or chess programs (training ones or special designed databases puzzles).

      Tomasz was able to improve at M1-e, because he has practised these puzzles (hats off to Aox for providing EXCELLENT tool) until he solved 120K puzzles of the same type (the same database has been repeated all over again). He simply memorized the types of puzzles and the solutions. At present he is able to solve 90% of these below 1,5sec each!

      That's right - the M1-e puzzles are too easy for Tomasz. He cannot break 45MPM no matter what he does and that's why he finally decided to give a try to such tools as: FAC, M1-h and if they will not make any difference (at M1-e) he will try to use ChessGYM (attackers and defenders).

      I agree that FAES will help quite much - not just at M1-e, but in M1-h too! If there is such tool present and it is possible to practice - just let me know!

      If you have any questions or comments just ask Tomasz ;) :)

  3. Here is my present (achieved 2 months ago) score at chessgym with the attackers and the defenders:

    Attackers -> 54.29 4,362 13h 29m 56s
    Defenders -> 84.38 2,317 6h 22m 19s

    (M1-h) Done: 277; Mates / min: 15.03.

    I have to solve about 2-3K of these puzzles to learn the algorithm. They are extremally difficult ones, but they learn you a lot of subskills. I have hard time when solving, but the score is getting better and bettter (even at a very slow motion/pace).

    These hard #1 puzzles are really nice as they are really shocking at first. However they are extremally logical and you have to be precise! You cannot "shot everywhere" and see what happens. Sometimes I am sure there is a mistake in the puzzle, but after some moments I see the "hidden option".

    What is my goal: There are multiple goals with the step by step way to achieve them.

    GOAL 1: score 15 MPM
    GOAL 2: score 20 MPM
    GOAL 3: score 25 MPM
    GOAL 4: score 30 MPM (ultimate goal)

    IF I am correct the last goal will be achieved in about 3-4 months from now. However it is very important as we could say "at least one crazy guy proved IT IS possible to improve at M1-puzzles type excercises!" LOL

  4. Back to the saltmines! Welcome to the bonus stage! ;) :).

    Done: 805 --> Mates / min: 15.73. It is the average score of mine. There was a moment when my screen showed 18-19 MPM, but it was just a "noise", not a standard performance.

    The hard puzzles are VERY hard ones (except those when the King is the only piece left against at least 3-8 opposite pieces). Why? They require you know very well such elements as:
    1) ALL the possible checks - if you cannot do it very well, back to the saltmines! (FAC is your first aid!)
    2) After you know how to find FAC you can click the wrong ones. Why? Simply because you played an illegal move!
    3) A Tool called "FALCM" (Find all legal moves check-moves) is needed. If you make a check and think it is mate, you have to check if your move is legal!
    4) You have to know what are the squares of the opponent's King. Find all escape square is a must (FAES). Practice it until you will be a master at this one! Otherwise you will be making checks, not mates!
    5) You have to recognize if your (checking) move will not end up with being taken by one of your opponent pieces! Therefore you have to practice "Find all the attackers" to see every of your (check) move as "clean" one (that one your opponent cannot capture).

    And you are at the chess board chaos - all the pieces are close to random configuration (setup) and your task is to get through this hell jungle! After that you are awarded with finding the best move. Is it easy? Let's see:
    a) pins, discovered check, double check, line clearance, opening and closing lines (done by pawns), counterpins along all the lines (vertical, horizontal and diagonal)
    b) original promotion (non-standard like promoting to N is possible too!), long moves and and pieces at the opposite squares far away from mating square (your pieces as well as your opponents!)

    If you are able to comprehend it very well you are eligble to break 20 MPM at mate in 1 hard. Remember the name: HARD! You have been warned - now it is your turn to see how good you are! :)

    BTW. Reaching GOAL 2 (score 20 MPM) seems like hard work! If anyone of you breaks 30 MPM at mate in 1 hard - it will be really impressive performance (like scoring 45 MPM at Mate in 1 easy).

  5. This list is incomplete! There are in fact THREE unique "block" functions in chess with important differences.

    1. I adopted the list of Radovic. His blocking implies putting a piece between the attacker and the target, which means the interposed piece becomes pinned.

      We use the term "blockade" for several other things.
      A king can be blocked by its own piece, which falls in the category "restrain".

      So what do you mean?

    2. I am doing a detailed blog on this now, but I also started with Radovic's list but quickly found it was insufficient. I believe he has taken this list off of his website (at least I haven't been able to find it for a while).

      For one, I believe he uses the term "restrain" to mean attacking SQUARES to prevent your opponent from accessing them, instead of meaning PIECES that are physically preventing the opponent from moving past them. I use the term "restrict" to describe attacked squares that are off limits to the opponent.

      On blocking, I've expanded the list of terms to cover the three unique functions:

      "limiting" is the corollary of "defend". This only requires two allied pieces -- the piece being defended piece is in turn physically preventing the defender from reaching certain squares. Does not apply to pawns since they can defend without in turn being limited. A king and knight are short range so the impact of being limited is only the square the defended piece is on.

      "blockade" is the corollary of "attack". This only requires one enemy and one allied piece -- the piece being attacked is in turn physically preventing the attacker from reaching certain squares. Same caveats as above for pawns, kings, and knights.

      "shielding" replaces the common term for blocking by interposing. This requires three pieces - two allied and one enemy -- that are ON THE SAME LINE.

  6. At the end of the first comment of this post i did give a link to a list of basic visions sorted by the number of pieces at the board.

    i think it is not that important to get a precise definition, in my eyes its most important to generate high volume improvable exercises ( taken from real games ?)

    1. That's interesting -- thanks for sharing. what was your source for Averbakh's definitions of contact?

      I'm not sure I agree with your second point though. Perhaps I don't understand what you mean. Definitions are useful for understanding a position, and having unique terms for the relationships provides quick recall to the implications of those relationships. I agree that not all relationships/functions can be trained in isolation, but that does not make them unimportant.

    2. If i remember correct i have these definitions from one of his middlegame
      books, but i did try to extract the elements independent "bottom up".

      If we want to improve in tactics ( here now we try to improve in m1 ) then a top down method might be quicker.
      As soon as we find a subtask which is improvable it might not be necessary to search any deeper and search for subsubtasks and so on. Such lowest level tasks will be hard to improve, they are already extreme quick.
      I think/hope that it is more effective to do a training of FAC for example which is a higher-level task ( ~ = "take" the king in 2! moves ) than to do any of its subtasks ( if not necessary! ).

      IF we keep failing at making m1 improvable , the idea of the whole theory collapse anyway :/

    3. I do not believe m1 is not-improvable. THE ONLY question is how to do it in an efficient way (what elements are necessary, how to train them, what duration and what period of time is needed, etc.).

      I strongly believe that unless we find these critical/key elements - we will be going around the circle (run at the same place, but do not move forward).